Trends in Comparison Shopping

Digital marketers have the daunting task of understanding why a consumer does or does not convert. A great way to combat these online non-converters is to get inside of their heads. Despite the convenience of online shopping, many consumers may be overwhelmed by the process of sifting through various websites found on a simple search that yield the product of their interest.

Fortunately, there are tools available now that make purchasing products online more convenient for shoppers.  These should be leveraged by retail marketers and used to pique the interest of non-converters and in many cases, transform them into recurring online shoppers.

One of these tools is the increasingly popular comparison shopping engine, which are websites that offer a place for consumers to view the same or similar products at different prices across multiple retailers, encouraging stronger consumer engagement.  Aside from the obvious preferred giants like Amazon and Bing, there are numerous other comparison engines that consumers are frequenting to get the biggest bang for their buck such as thefind, shopzilla, PriceGrabber: the list goes on.

Many of these sites also offer apps for mobile devices that conveniently allow users to scan bar codes from their smartphone and compare offline prices with online alternatives.  IgnitionOne research has shown an increasing trend in paid search spend on smartphones early in Q4 2012 (http://www.ignitionone.com/pdf/ignitionone-q3-2012-online-advertising-report.pdf ).  With the use of comparison shopping engines on mobile devices combined with the increase in paid search spend on smartphones, retailers can rest assured that as more consumers adapt to using these tools, purchases on mobile devices will continue to increase.  By understanding who their customers are and how they are shopping, retailers have a tremendous opportunity in the mobile arena.

Consumers are also using multiple comparison shopping engines at one time to find the products they want at the prices they are willing to pay, making it more difficult for digital marketers to break down the path to conversion.  The readily available comparison information on the sites also provides a challenge for retailers who do not offer price match opportunities or who cannot lower their prices.  Why would a consumer spend more and pay for shipping if another reputable retailer is offering the same product for $20 less and free shipping? Not only do retail marketers have their hands tied in trying to understand the path to conversion, but it is also becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate their offerings from the competition, and customer loyalty programs aren’t cutting it anymore.  By understanding their shoppers’ demographics, continuously monitoring the competition, and implementing a solid promotional strategy in combination with optimizing their digital marketing media, retailers can avoid losing shoppers to the competition.

Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) can help retailers optimize their digital marketing strategies.  With PLAs, prices are easily compared across several online retailers.  Often, a potential consumer is unaware and unsuspecting that retailers and Google are offering options they may not have even realized they were looking for.  This is a great way for digital marketers to increase exposure on the path to conversion (I actually found myself distracted while typing this blog because of online shopping with PLAs, and I’m certain that the goal of the retailer has been met, as I am grabbing my credit card at the moment).

New tools are making it more convincing for a potential buyer to purchase a product, and online advertisers are gaining the upper-hand in persuading them. With the use of insights from IgnitionOne, retailers can optimize their digital marketing performance and understand the different channels consumers are browsing in their path to conversion.

Now excuse me; I have some online shopping to do!

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